Note: It’s important for me to communicate that I don’t know the author of Twilight or her family personally and I do not intend them any insult; this article is purely academic speculation inspired by a story which will remain a timeless work of art. It is the emotional accessibility of the work which makes commentary such as this possible. I may be projecting the whole thing… But that’s exactly why Twilight is so successful, because it invites us so welcomingly into the story!
Every fan knows the story of the Twilight Saga.
There are many theories as to what makes the story such a pop-culture phenomenon, and why the emotions behind it have such a powerful effect although the writing is as simple as that of the average teen novel. The theory which I am presenting here is that Twilight is based on a true story, which may be unknown even to its author. It evokes true emotion and connects with the reader because it comes through the author in its pure and basic form. The author herself says that the idea for the story came to her in a dream. This is obviously a story about life and death and the choice between them; but I believe it’s a bit more complicated than most people think.
Edward is the great love of Bella’s life. He has a good moral character and is equally in love with her. Edward’s character may actually have been the great love of someone’s life, someone who fell in love around a century ago (maybe the author’s grandmother or great-grandmother, but of course this is pure speculation on my part…) He’s very specifically from another time and has the morals and manners of those times.
He’s dead. He’s over 100 years old even though he looks forever 17. The original lover must have died young, leaving his young beloved behind to mourn him; he probably actually died of something like the Spanish flu in the time that was attributed to Edward’s original “death”. His beloved has preserved him as a perfect memory. She could never let go of the relationship. She obsessed about him until she died (which may have been in childbirth; more about that later). He became more and more perfect through her memories, the ultimate love. He was given physical perfection and super powers, and his greatest power in her imagination was to protect her.
When Bella meets Edward and falls in love, it’s complicated from the beginning: It’s almost as though she knows him already; he is already her perfect memory. This is one reason I believe that the story comes from a subconscious ancestral memory of the author. This is also why Edward is a vampire from the beginning, and has already been around for so long. Being a vampire is an obvious indication that he’s not alive, and being “vegetarian” softens the implication a bit; he is less dangerous because he is smart and kind, but it doesn’t change his basic nature. He is dangerous to Bella, which represents the fact that the original ancestor, obsessed with her dead lover, may actually have been seriously in danger of losing her sanity and possibly her life by wishing for her dead partner. In the story, Bella describes herself from the beginning as always wondering about what it must be like to die; if this is a family drama that was subconsciously passed down, these would be basic feelings that the author has too, although they may be unexplainable to her in her current situation. The character is also described as clumsy, introverted and disconnected from life, although she is also extremely beautiful, intelligent, healthy and ultimately loveable. Such a disconnection between potential and expression doesn’t normally occur in an otherwise successful personality without a serious drama in the background.
Edward realizes the danger of pulling Bella with him towards death, and he even leaves her because of it, because he loves her so much he doesn’t want her to die, too. He is good, but that doesn’t stop him from being dead. When he leaves, this is a metaphor for the death of the original ancestral lover, which catalyses the beginning of Bella’s highly obsessive and slightly insane behavior.
When Jacob arrives on the scene, he is very obviously and vibrantly alive, with equal heat to compensate for Edward’s deathly coldness. He is the anchor which holds her in life and keeps her from joining Edward in death. She hears Edward’s voice and is constantly obsessed with keeping him present by putting herself in danger.
The ancestor must have found a new partner after her lover died. Like any relationship where one partner is focused on a previously deceased mate, it is difficult for them because she still can’t let go of the original relationship. That’s one of the elements which is confusing to Twilight fans, who often wonder how Bella can actually love Jacob when she is so in love with Edward: This explains it. The answer is that Edward is actually already dead. Jacob represents her real, possible partner in life. Edward is only an illusory obsession by this point. She feels constantly pulled between the two and both she and Jacob suffer because of it. The ancestor may even have attempted to take her own life several times.
When Bella goes to find Edward in New Moon, this is the point at which the ancestor would have turned more completely towards death, and accepted the fact that she couldn’t live without her dead partner. Bella wants to become a vampire. The ancestor wants to die and has stopped fighting the feeling. She becomes more accepting of her role.
There is a key scene at the beginning of “Eclipse”, when Bella sees her Grandmother in a dream in the meadow where she learned Edward’s secret. It becomes clear that it is not really her Grandmother, but a reflection of herself. This is attributed to her fear her fear of her own mortality in comparison to Edward’s timelessness; however, it is also a subtle reflection of the author’s own possible family history.
Slowly we see Bella having second thoughts, and although she and Edward become engaged, she starts to understand why he doesn’t want her to die. But her love for him is stronger, even stronger than her love for life. She slowly begins to take leave of those she loves, and she is constantly saying goodbye and trying to come to terms with her own imminent death, which will be of her own choosing.
Just when Bella begins to realize there may be a good reason for life (when she discovers how important her own human sexuality is to her) she becomes pregnant with Edward’s child and the difficulty of the pregnancy confronts her once again with death. The child becomes more important to her than her own life: When confronted with the possibility of terminating the pregnancy which is threatening her life, she becomes adamant that she will sacrifice herself for her child.
At this point, the ancestor may have become pregnant by her new partner, and may also have been confronted by the choice of termination of the pregnancy or her own death. Once again, she chooses death, but this time, she realizes that the ultimate result of her death will be the life of her child. She decides to make the greatest sacrifice of all for her child, and thus turns a choice for death into a choice for life.
In the story, this is the only point at which Edward will willingly make her into a vampire; he wants her to live, but he accepts her choice to sacrifice her life for her child’s.
Bella’s character is constantly about selflessness and sacrifice. The elemental character which is introduced from the Quileute legend of “the third wife” who sacrifices herself for the survival of her people becomes a role model for Bella, and both in the battle with Victoria in Eclipse and in her own struggle for the life of her child, she offers sacrifice. When she finally becomes a vampire, it is no accident that her main power is to be a shield to protect all the people she loves, especially her daughter. Jacob’s “imprinting” on the child, particularly as it’s presented with him in the role of protector, may indicate that the baby was actually the child of the ancestor’s new partner, or was accepted and cared for as such, with the memory of the mother’s sacrifice giving the partner inspiration and power to do the best job he could to raise the child, and pass on the memory of the mother’s love.
The ancestor made the ultimate sacrifice, giving up her own life for her child. This is the ultimate paradox of turning death to life; and the ultimate gift of love. This is one reason the story is so powerful. Strangely enough, it’s also the central theme of one of the other most popular books of our time, Harry Potter. The “boy who lived” lived because of his mother’s sacrifice and was protected by her ultimate gift of love…
No wonder we want Bella to be happy and glittering; doesn’t a woman like that deserve eternal life with the dream man of her choice?
On the other side, I always felt sorry for Jacob! If life was fair, Bella would’ve been able to stop obsessing, get on with life, and have a good chance at a life with him. Those of us who don’t obsess easily and like our men warm and alive will pick Team Jacob every time :-)